DraftKings Sportsbook Crosses 50-Yard Line Of NFL Season

Written By Dave Bontempo on November 19, 2020 - Last Updated on April 25, 2023
DraftKings NFL Midway

We’ve already passed the halfway point of the 2020 NFL betting season — at least, the regular-season portion of it.

How did the first half go?

Play NJ caught up with Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings Sportsbook. He spoke about team performances against the spread and NJ sports betting trends.

DraftKings’ bettors + alternative spread

Avello said  the alternative spread parlay is one of the fastest-growing areas for DraftKings Sportsbook. And it concerns leveraging big dollars for a nice payout.

The philosophy is rational.

Bettors change the point spread to something they like more, pay the price or “juice” for it and put an enormous bankroll behind it. The result is a small rate of return, but a colossal amount of return for hitting every game on the ticket.

“Bettors are getting creative,” Avello told Play NJ.  “We are seeing a lot of alternate line parlays, and I think it’s going to keep getting more popular.

“[Earlier this month], we had a $600,000 parlay in which the bettor used alternate lines. The bettor moved the Seattle Seahawks from -3 points to + 10.5. He laid some serious juice.

“Then he took the Houston Texans +6.5 (as opposed to the real -6.5 line) against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Baltimore Ravens +13.5 (rather than -1) against the Indianapolis Colts and the Steelers -2.5 (instead of -14.5) against the Cowboys.

“It paid (a profit of) $540,000.”

Closer look at NFL adjusted lines

So if we go back to Week Nine, here is how the teams mentioned above performed straight up:

  • Bills 44, Seahawks, 34
  • Texans 27, Jaguars 25
  • Ravens 24, Colts 10
  • Steelers 24, Cowboys 19

The alternate bet thus forged a winner, because the Seahawks then prevailed by half a point and the Steelers’ triumph over the Cowboys was enough to cover the adjusted -2.5 spread.

Here was another big play. A bettor leveraged moneyline, spread and intuition to turn $169,000 into more than $400,000.

The player took the Ravens at -1.5, right near the game-time spread when they played the Colts. Then came the Steelers moneyline, and, for razzle-dazzle, the bettor selected the Miami Dolphins at -1.5 against the Arizona Cardinals. Bold move, as the Dolphins were +6, but won 34-31.

These parlays can be adjusted to a comfortable tolerance level.

Betting against the spread

For comparison purposes, here’s a look at how some teams are fairing against the points spread. This is the line at kickoff, not an alternative selected by bettors.

These lines tell gamblers a different story than the moneyline standings.

That’s why first place belongs to the Cincinnati Bengals. They are 7-1 against the number by virtue of being an improving team that does just enough to cover the number.

The Dolphins are an under-the-radar powerhouse. After covering nine of their last 12 games last year, Miami closed the first half at 6-2 against the number. That’s 15-5 since early last year for a team that was a laughingstock not long ago. They finished the first half with four straight covers.

The New York Giants are 6-3 against the spread, one of the finer league performances. Big Blue has only been blown out of one game. It has covered against playoff contenders like the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles.

The Minnesota Vikings, 6-3, are two games better on the spread than in their moneyline standings.

The unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers are paying a premium for their hot start. They have hit the realm of giving at least a touchdown in recent games. Pittsburgh nonetheless finished the first half 6-2 against the spread.

DraftKings + NFL rookie class

The 2020 NFL rookie class is playing a role in some of those results. The group includes some extremely talented first-year QBs.

Three of them were among the top-six picks.

  • Joe Burrow – No. 1 to the Bengals
  • Tua Tagovailoa – No. 5 to the Dolphins
  • Justin Herbert – No. 6 to the Chargers

And all three are starting for their respective teams.

It remains to be seen if the 1983 gold standard of John Elway (five Super Bowl appearances, two wins), Jim Kelly (four Super Bowl appearances) and Dan Marino (over 60,000 passing yards, one Super Bowl appearance) can ever be topped, but this group is rolling.

And bettors are rolling the dice with them.

“What’s happening with these teams, because of the young players, is that bettors are starting to believe these teams can win and are taking them,” said Avello. “What’s also helping these teams is that they are often getting a lot of points.”

The Bengals, who are only 2-5-1, normally get in the neighborhood of a touchdown every game. This week, however, the line is only +1.5 (as of early Thursday afternoon) versus the 2-7 Washington Football Team.

Tua has two wins in two starts, even though he’s looked the least impressive of the three quarterbacks. You can nonetheless see the razzle-dazzle of reigning MVP Lamar Jackson in him, along with the southpaw efficiency of former star Michael Vick.

Herbert has performed well, even though the Chargers have been losing games late.

“I love watching all of these players,” Avello says. “Justin Herbert has tremendous poise, Tua Tagovailoa is not scared one bit and Joe Burrow has been excellent all year.

“You have to figure this is a great class because quarterbacks normally have trouble adjusting to the NFL. Look, Daniel Jones of the Giants is not doing this, Sam Darnold of the Jets is not reaching this level, and they were expected to.

“But these rookies are used to winning going back to high school, and they expect to win here.”

The Chargers = risky business

Getting back to Herbert, his Chargers could be a hard-luck team for the ages. They recently lost back-to-back games on the final play and were forced into overtime in another loss when the potential game-winning field goal rattled off the goal post.

The Chargers were scored upon in the final play against the Denver Broncos and then had a game-winning catch (correctly) overturned by replay against the Las Vegas Raiders.

“In our network, each of those plays caused a change in the upper six figures,” Avello indicated. “When you consider the impact around the world, you’ve got to be thinking more than $1 million.

“Fortunately for our players, most of the money on the last game was with the Raiders. That was a good thing for them. I like the Chargers. They are playing better than when Phillip Rivers was there, but they can’t close out games.”

The Chargers’ futility was such that DraftKings introduced a unique prop last week. Would the Chargers have a fourth-quarter lead and then lose?

The Bucs and the Super Bowl bucks

Avello said DraftKings’ biggest action on Super Bowl futures is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady’s departure from New England was viewed as a rebirth for the team.

The Bucs went from 50-1 pre-Brady into the 10-1 to 15-1 at most books. Based on New Orleans’ 38-3 thumping of Tampa Bay in Week Nine, that bet may look safe for the books.

But there are still seven weeks of the regular season to go.


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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and others. He writes about all major sports in the booming legal New Jersey sports betting industry. Dave also hosts the Why Eagles Why podcast. Dave is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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